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How to Lighten Up a Kitchen With Cherry Cabinets

Explore expert tips to brighten kitchens with cherry cabinets. Discover painting, lighting, and decor ideas for a fresh, modern look at BK Ciandre.

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Cherry cabinets, known for their rich, luxurious tones, bring depth and warmth to kitchens. Yet, this elegance can sometimes lead to a darker ambiance than some homeowners prefer. The quest to lighten up the kitchen without embarking on a costly and time-consuming remodel presents a unique challenge. Homeowners are on the lookout for effective, straightforward strategies to refresh their space, aiming to achieve a brighter, more inviting kitchen atmosphere that enhances the natural beauty of cherry wood without the need for complete cabinetry replacement or major construction.

Cherry cabinets Lighten up

Cleaning and Preparation

Clean Your Cabinets

Before embarking on any modifications to lighten your cherry cabinets, the first crucial step is a comprehensive cleaning. Over time, kitchens accumulate grease, dirt, and residue, especially on surfaces like cabinetry. This buildup can significantly darken the appearance of cherry wood, masking its natural beauty and contributing to a gloomier ambiance in your kitchen. A meticulous cleaning not only restores the wood’s original luster but also provides a clearer assessment of your cabinets’ true color and condition. Utilizing a gentle, yet effective, cleaning solution can remove these layers of grime, potentially lightening the wood without the need for further treatment.

Prep for Painting or Refinishing

Should you decide that painting or refinishing your cabinets is the best route to achieving a lighter kitchen, proper preparation becomes indispensable. This process involves several key steps to ensure the new finish adheres securely and endures the rigors of kitchen use. Deglossing is an essential first step for cabinets with a glossy finish, creating a surface that subsequent layers can bond to more effectively. Sanding further smooths the wood, removing any imperfections and ensuring an even, receptive surface for painting or staining. Skipping these preparatory steps can lead to subpar results, with paint or stain that peels, chips, or wears prematurely. Investing time in thorough preparation not only enhances the final appearance but also extends the lifespan of your newly lightened cabinets.

Painting Cherry Cabinets

To achieve a durable and aesthetically pleasing result when painting cherry cabinets, consider the following steps:

  • Select the Right Paint: Opt for cabinet enamel for its durability.
  • Choose the Right Sheen: Eggshell for a subtle finish or semi-gloss for more shine and easier cleaning.
  • Color Selection:

Choose light, neutral tones (whites, creams, light grays) to brighten the space. And, Consider the kitchen’s existing color palette and natural light.

Whitewashing or Bleaching

These techniques allow the natural wood grain to show through while lightening the cabinets:

  • Whitewashing: Apply a semi-transparent white stain; Ideal for a rustic or cottage-style look.
  • Bleaching with “A/B” Bleaches: Use a two-part process involving sodium hydroxide (A) and hydrogen peroxide (B); Follow safety precautions and test on a small area first.

Cabinet Refacing

Refacing is an effective way to change the appearance of cherry cabinets without a full replacement:

  • Replace Doors and Drawer Fronts: Choose lighter-colored materials.
  • Material Options: Wide range available to fit any design aesthetic.
  • Cost-Effective: Transforms the look while keeping existing cabinet structures.

Enhancing Kitchen Brightness

Cherry cabinets White Hardware

Updating Hardware

  • Choose Lighter Hardware: Swap out old, dark hardware for lighter, modern options to subtly refresh the kitchen’s appearance.
  • Contemporary Styles: Consider brushed nickel, polished chrome, or matte silver for a sleek, bright look.

Maximizing Natural Light

  • Larger Windows: If possible, enlarge existing windows or add new ones to increase sunlight entry.
  • Reflective Backsplashes: Install backsplashes made of reflective materials like glass tiles to bounce light around the room.
  • Use of Mirrors: Strategically place mirrors to reflect natural light, making the kitchen feel brighter and more open.

Choosing Lighter Countertops and Decor

  • Light-Colored Countertops: Opt for white marble, quartz, or light granite to contrast dark cherry cabinets and lighten the space.
  • Bright Decor and Accessories:

Use light-colored rugs and curtains to add brightness; Select wall paint in soft, light hues to enhance the overall airy feel of the kitchen.


Lightening up a kitchen with cherry cabinets doesn’t require a complete overhaul. By implementing cost-effective strategies such as painting cabinets with the right type of enamel and sheen, whitewashing or bleaching to preserve wood grain, and refacing cabinets with lighter materials, you can significantly brighten your kitchen’s appearance. Updating hardware to more contemporary, lighter options, maximizing natural light through larger windows or reflective surfaces, and choosing light-colored countertops and decor can further enhance the brightness of your kitchen. These methods offer a practical approach to transforming your kitchen into a more inviting, airy space. We encourage homeowners to explore more kitchen options as efficient ways to refresh their kitchens, improving the overall feel and ambiance without the extensive cost and effort of a full renovation.

FAQs Related to Cherry Cabinets

Can cherry cabinets be lightened?

Yes, cherry cabinets can be lightened through several methods, including painting, whitewashing, or bleaching. These techniques can significantly alter the appearance of the cabinets, making them lighter and giving the kitchen a fresher look.

How do you make a kitchen with cherry cabinets look modern?

To modernize a kitchen with cherry cabinets:

  • Update the hardware to sleek, contemporary styles.
  • Paint the cabinets in modern hues or apply a light stain.
  • Incorporate stainless steel appliances and modern lighting fixtures.
  • Use minimalist decor and clean lines throughout the kitchen design.

What color looks best with cherry cabinets?

Light neutral colors like white, cream, or light gray complement cherry cabinets well, creating a bright and airy feel. For a more dramatic contrast, soft blues or greens can also enhance the rich tones of the cherry wood.

Can you stain over cherry cabinets?

Yes, you can stain over cherry cabinets. However, it’s important to properly prepare the surface by cleaning, sanding, and applying a primer if necessary. Choosing a lighter stain can be challenging due to the dark nature of cherry wood, so it may be more effective to consider other lightening methods for a significant color change.

How do you modernize a kitchen with cherry cabinets?

Modernizing a kitchen with cherry cabinets can involve:

  • Replacing old hardware with modern designs.
  • Adding contemporary backsplash tiles.
  • Integrating modern appliances and fixtures.
  • Updating countertops with materials like quartz or granite in lighter shades.
  • Incorporating open shelving or glass-front cabinet doors.

Are cherry cabinets in style 2024?

Trends in kitchen design evolve, but cherry cabinets can still be stylish in 2024 when integrated into a modern or transitional kitchen design. Their timeless appeal and durability make them a valuable asset in any kitchen. Pairing cherry cabinets with modern elements and colors can refresh their look and keep your kitchen in style.


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